Kathy Grannan, MSN, RN, CNL, is a nurse navigator, primarily for gastrointestinal cancers, for OhioHealth Cancer Services. She has served as a nurse navigator since May 2010.
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Q: What is the most important work you do as a nurse navigator?
Kathy Grannan: The most important work I do as a nurse navigator is helping cancer patients through a crisis in the introductory period following a cancer diagnosis by providing information and support and linking them to the resources they will need.
Q: What do you like best about your job?
KG: I never go home at the end of the day and wonder if I made a difference. I’ve had a variety of experiences in nursing, and you can’t be a nurse without integrating what you’ve learned through your career and dealing with people. The wisdom I have gained from being a nurse has been so valuable. I really learn a lot from the patients.
It’s a privilege to have this role and be in people’s lives to help when their world is upside down. You can’t fix everything, but you sure can help.
Q: What value do you think nurse navigation provides?
KG: In terms of support, it’s a role that’s ideally suited to understand and anticipate the needs of cancer patients. The value to them is that somebody is looking out for them and paving the way to make things go as smoothly as possible. Somebody is anticipating what’s ahead with their cancer and treatment, and has worked to get them what they need.
In terms of value to a hospital or health care system, nurse navigation can help the system be more efficient, more cost effective and can help promote continuity of care for patients.
Q: What would you say to an organization that is contemplating whether to implement a nurse navigation program?
KG: It’s important for management to have a vision for how the system works and what is needed in the role. The person who initiates the navigation program would need to have a vision.
In a large system, people can fall between the cracks. Navigation can help prevent that from happening. The gaps vary from setting to setting, but they are real. Navigators can anticipate where the patient is vulnerable and figure out what they need help with.
Navigators are also great resources for other nurses in the hospital. It’s my pleasure to work with nurses on units that have other focuses and might not always work with patients going through chemotherapy.
Q: What do you hope for as the future for nurse navigation in the United States?
KG: I hope that the networking opportunities between navigators across the country can become stronger. There’s a lot we can learn from each other.
I’d also love to see some research that looks more at the value of navigation from a support perspective, but also a financial perspective. It’s easier to look at it as an asset if we can document the effectiveness of the role, both for cost savings and patient loyalty.